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Secure Remote Work Summit: How Futurism and Strategic Foresight Can Minimize the "Return on Non-Investment"

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This presentation was originally delivered during the Secure Remote Work Virtual Summit, which took place on March 31, 2020.

You can view the full event summary and as well as access additional sessions from the Secure Remote Work Summit in our Secure Remote Work Resource Center.

Following is the recording and a session summary of a talk by Cal Bowman,Vice President - Strategy & Innovation at ThinkStack.

In this session recording, you will learn about how the COVID-19 outbreak has made it clear that we can all do more to prepare ourselves for future scenarios that might require our teams to work remotely in a secure fashion.

This session from our Secure Remote Work Response Summit highlights how futurism and strategic foresight can help us get ahead of the curve and anticipate what might happen so that we can take a proactive stance and avoid the costs associated with a "return on non-investment" in remote work security.

Watch the video or peruse the notes from the session below.

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Session notes

Strategic foresight capacity

Strategic foresight and futurist thinking is the process of looking 10 to 20 years into the future to better handle unprecedented circumstances. This way of thinking involves asking questions about the future, such as:

  • What will be the values of our future employees and customers?
  • What kinds of products will our customers need?
  • What resources will our employees need?
  • How can we best serve our customers and employees?
  • How can we maintain remote work security?


While strategic foresight can be extremely helpful in coming up with better solutions for future problems, there are limits to this. Cal Bowman discusses how strategic foresight has its challenges. 

No one can predict the future as it all remains up to chance. Because of this, any future plan has to be dynamic and adaptable to multiple outcomes. More than anything, these plans have to be participatory. Bosses, investors and employees should all contribute in coming up with possible scenarios and the factors of these.

Read the Guide: The Secure Remote Work Guide

How to work from home securely for government agencies & contractors during the Coronavirus outbreak.

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Return of non-investment and stages of futurist thinking

When you don’t look into the future and are inflexible with innovation, your company may suffer. Cal Bowman brings up the example of Kodak. Because they suppressed digital innovations within their own company, they have since fallen very far in their industry.

This is an especially big concern with remote work security. If companies do not invest in remote work security and situations, such as COVID-19, force employees to work remotely, they may lose data or suffer from cyberattacks and stolen information.

There are five stages of futurist study exercises. These steps will allow users to understand the needs of employees and customers in ten to twenty years. The stages are:

  1. Identify and monitor change.
  2. Critique and analyze change.
  3. Imagine alternatives.
  4. Envision the preferred alternative.
  5. Plan and implement steps to achieve the optimal outcome. 

Methods and approaches of strategic foresight

There are many different practices used when conducting strategic foresight. Cal Bowman discusses five of these methods:

  • Trend analysis: trend analysis is completed using the STEEP model. STEEP stands for social, technological, economical, environmental and political. Analyzing each of these categories can give you a better overview of what the future may look like. Once each of these trends have been defined, you can frame the domain with drivers of change.
  • Cyclical pattern analysis: this involves looking at changes that happen on a repeatable cycle, like seasonal changes for instance.
  • Environmental scanning: this practice involves looking at external drives in your environment, and how it will affect your business.
  • Scenarios: this is an exercise where a group will make up stories about the future. Using a quad chart, each quadrant will represent one of the following: unknown likely, known likely, unknown unlikely and known unlikely. The best way to go about this exercise is to encourage others to think as outside of the box as possible. For example, someone may put “alien invasion” into the unknown unlikely quadrant. While an alien invasion seems impossible, it opens up the mind to think of other extreme situations. 
  • Backcasting and visioning: this is a process to spur present action. Essentially, this method takes what you are envisioning for future solutions and putting that into action now. For example, your group may have predicted that in twenty years time the workforce will be 100% remote. Then you will backcast from twenty years from now and identify milestones of where you would like to be in five, ten and fifteen years in achieving the specific vision.


Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you backcast and create a plan:

  • Based on trend analysis, cyclical pattern analysis and environmental scanning, what kind of future do you see?
  • What is your objective for that future? For example, if you see a future of a 100% remote workforce, what is the ideal version of that future?
  • How can you work step-by-step from the future to the present to achieve this objective?
  • What kind of constraints might you encounter? What are the extraneous variables that may affect this future?


Read the Case Study: Transitioning to Secure Remote Work

How ASSETT seamlessly transitioned its team to securely working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic with GoSilent.

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Final thoughts

The impact of COVID-19 has shown us how important it is to plan for the future and invest in remote work security. Whether it is a global pandemic or other unexpected disruption, being prepared for any future situation will save your company both money and stress. 

Government guide to secure remote work